Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Keeping your online accounts secure

Keeping your online accounts secure and your privacy settings up to date might not be high on your list of priorities, but it should be.

As we increasingly live our lives online, it is important to take online privacy and security seriously.

While it might not seem like a big deal at the time –  you might think ‘who cares if a stranger knows which suburb I live in? — it is good practice to keep your personal information private.

Making it easy for someone to piece together bits of information about you — like which school you go to, where you live and your birthday — makes you a softer target for online scammers and hackers.

‘One of my friends downloaded this app that was supposed to get her more Instagram followers and when she put her personal account details into it, the app hacked her account and deleted all her photos’.

Here are some tips so you can keep your accounts secure and stay in control of your online privacy. You can also read more about how to protect your identity.

What to do

Do a privacy check up

Do a privacy check-up by going through the settings for all your social media accounts. It can be a good way to fill some time when you’re bored catching the bus, or waiting somewhere, and it shouldn’t take too long! Your social media accounts may still use the default settings, so it’s best to double check, and ensure you are aware of the amount of personal information you are putting out there.

Set strong passwords and update your old ones

Do you use the same password on more than one account? Do you use the same password to log into your social media accounts and online banking? Have you been using the same password for years? Then it’s time to update your passwords so they are all unique and more secure.

Security experts now recommend using a ‘pass phrase’ rather than simply a password. Find out more about how to set strong passwords.

Don’t share your passcodes

This one seems obvious. But almost 1 in 5 teenagers have shared the passcode to their social media accounts with a friend, family member, boyfriend or girlfriend. It may seem like a way of saying ‘I have nothing to hide’, but it’s never a good idea to let anyone else know your passcodes – it increases your risk of cyberbullying and hacking of your personal information.

Keep your apps and software up to date

New app and software updates are designed to keep your data secure. Make sure you download and install new operating systems and software on your phone, tablet or computer as soon as they become available. Install virus protection software on your computer and keep it up to date. This will help to avoid computer viruses, which could destroy your data, make your computer unusable or steal your personal information.

Don’t add people on social media that you haven’t met offline

When you get a friend or follow request from someone you don’t know, check their profile. See if you have any mutual friends. If you’re feeling unsure —delete the request! Just like you’d find it weird if a stranger stopped you on the street, don’t let them follow your online profile.

When websites or apps ask for your personal information, double check they are legit

Some websites and apps are built by scammers and are designed to collect people’s personal information, so that they can hack your accounts or steal your money. If it looks dodgy, don’t hand over any personal information. Here are some quick tips for identifying dodgy sites and apps:

  • Check that the URL for a website is the main URL you normally use to access that site.
  • Be wary of any emails from people you don’t know. If in doubt don’t click on links or open attachments in emails.
  • Check that the branding is accurate — that it appears the same across all platforms — and the logo is not blurred.
  • Are there typos on the website or in emails asking you to login and update your details? If so, then it’s likely to be a scam.
  • Check your app store for reviews of apps before you download them. If there are lots of users and good reviews, it’s unlikely to be a scam. If there aren’t any reviews, do some more online research — scams usually get identified fairly quickly and people often post online about them.
  • Is an app asking you to input lots of personal information or provide your login details for any social media accounts? Then, it’s likely to be a scam.
  • Check out Scamwatch and Stay Smart Online.

Be aware of the information that advertisers can access

Companies can collect a lot of information about us through the information that we put online, to target their advertising. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, change your privacy settings and read more about protecting your identity.